Sunday, June 22, 2008


Thanks to ~ RAYMOND for the photo.

Below is my article for my work newsletter; this issue's theme is 'Style'.

We nerds,-- the Basement Dwellers, Code Slingers, the Reviled Who Shall Not Be Mentioned -- can blissfully ignore style. We also ignore fashion, slickness, presentability and anyone who points at us and says "heeey, straight shooter!".

It's partly that yes, we have the social awareness of a leperous donkey, that cannot be argued; but for most of us, it goes deeper.

There is a long standing tradition, nay, I'd say a belief that runs to the ROOT of geekiness. That is, FUNCTION, over FORM. This is not right in all cases, maybe not even in most cases, but it's a leading tenet of being nerdcore.

There are many instances in which this belief is challenged and crushed. The iPod, for example. There was time when it wasn't the dominant mp3-music-video-lifestyle-media-enabler it is today. There was a time when all sorts of horrid, ugly, but reasonably priced mp3 players vied for your dollars.

There was one in particular that was the darling of the nerd community, the Archos Jukebox. It was better than the iPod in almost every single respect: (BLAH BLAH BLAH technobabble BLAH). Short version, the iPod was a late 80's Lamborghini, and the Archos was a Corolla. Yes, one look admittedly much nicer and sleeker, but it was would also be a mere footnote in the book 'Things to Waste Enormous Sums Of Money On With Laughable Durability' whereas the other car (with all the style of a pail of compost) could easily be passed down the generations until the Four Horsemen take a canter.

Sadly, one look around any bus stop will tell you who won that race. For nerds, it was an outrage. The iPod was inferior in every way: capacity, compatibility, battery life, price.

It was sexy though.

It often goes whistling by geek's heads that sometimes, the FORM IS the FUNCTION. Personal mp3 players were well, PERSONAL. They were mini-status symbols of coolness. You could carry around an Archos if you found external hard-drives particularly fetching, but otherwise you went for something sleek, that looked like it was forged in a crucible of pure Design and Hipster Cred. Which reduces your choices to Apple products or if I.M. Pei ever gets around to designing personal electronics.

In the end, we geeks can appreciate there is some sort of value in style. That, in some instances, our raw understanding of function is not the end all and be all of how useful things are. We can appreciate such ideas at a very abstract level; it won't stop us from wearing spaceship T-shirts and jeans.


Anonymous said...

You remind me of the Neal Stephenson OS/car-dealership analogy in "In the Beginning was the Command Line"

And you're dead right about the Archos. I knew it was better, and completely ignored it.

Sent from my Iphone. Because I am a tool.

Niteowl said...

Hot dang, I just found "In the beginning was the command line", it's an 'essay', but it's like 36,000 words! Dear god.

Geek hell has a very special place for you, oh Sucker for Shiny Things. I hear it's almost indistinguishable from the Zune Beta Testers office.

Cyrano said...

I have a friend who still swears by mini disks. He carries his player around in a man-purse, complete with a cassette car adapter so he can inflict them on me whenever we drive somewhere.

J. D. Harper said...

Hey, niteowl! You may find this podcast episode interesting:

It's about nerds, style, and how all dress is cosplay.

Niteowl said...

Mini-disks, yet another grab by sony for a propriety media format. They got tenacity. I bet you your friend also loves SonicStage, or whatever the hell that mass of bloatware is called.

All dress is cosplay? That's what I keep tryign to tell my employer, but they still won't let me wear the school-girl outfit.